Disclaimer: I own nothing of One Piece.
- The Treacherous Moon (Part 2) -
The room was filled with noise, voices ringing out, boisterous laughter, chuckles slipping through here and there. But he wasn't joining in, his mind not absorbing one word flowing between crew mates. He heard only one voice, and as he lay on the green couch, his head turned to the left to see only one face. She laughed and spoke, but never to him. She pretended and lied, but never to him. He knew what lay inside her. He saw it in the way she kept her eyes diverted. The way she always seemed to be on the other side of the room. Anywhere he wasn't. But most importantly, it was clear when his safety had been in doubt. That was when it was undeniable. When her voice rang out, calling his name, defying the silence she forced on herself. When after, she lingered nearby, till she knew he wouldn't go anywhere. That was how he knew and why he waited. The loud meal and then conversations that followed seemed to go on forever but with time, the need to rest came. The need to welcome the night with quiet thoughts and reminiscing. The swordsman was the first to leave, his departure not going unnoticed. He wondered if it did. But she would never say.
Outside, he had no problem seeing in the dark. There wasn't much of it. The moon was there but the swordsman had long since stopped paying attention to it, no longer seeking its presence. He had no immediate destination and so stood against a wall, looking up at the bright globe in the sky. Eventually, voices became louder above, bodies flowing out from the galley. He stayed where he was, almost sheltered by the trees shadows. Didn't matter if anyone spotted him on that spot – just standing there. His male crew mates headed to their quarters. All but one who cleaned up behind everyone. Then female voices were heard as the two roommates descended the stairs. In the moonlight, he couldn't clearly make out the colour of her hair or her clothes, but the movement of her body, the tune of her voice was enough. She was beautiful. And just in his reach but he could do nothing but wait. He knew she'd walk away. He knew he'd be left behind with only the undesired company of the moon. She took a few steps away, keeping up with her roommate, but then, she stopped. And he heard words he had hoped to hear.
She wanted to stay. For just a few minutes.
Left behind with a smile and unaware of his presence, the navigator moved across the grass, slowly. Not going anywhere, just touching the grass with her sandalled feet. He moved deeper into the shadows, relieved he had nothing at his side that would betray his presence. He saw her look up at the crow's nest and wondered if she was thinking of who was supposed to be up there. What would she do if she knew he was watching her instead. From so close.
Then he saw her startled. But it wasn't his presence that had startled her. She lowered her head as if to hide. Then, she was running... in his direction. He took further cover behind the tree, retreating till his back touched the side of the stairs. It was as if she was coming straight to him, but that couldn't be. Then she was there, right in front of him, her side to him as she looked up at the railing of the balcony above. The navigator was hiding from someone, her amusement clear as she covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a giggle. How couldn't she have seen him? He didn't know and he didn't care. Footsteps coming from above could be heard and he knew who had startled her. Silently, his glance flowed over her as she stood just a few feet before him. Then his arms moved from his sides.
A gasp escaped her as swiftly arms encircled her waist – clothed arms which jerked her deeper into the shade of the tree. For a few seconds she saw nothing as her mind tried to process what was happening. The arms held her, gently, her body pressed against a hard form. A warm chest. Emotions bubbled up inside her. She knew who it was. Never had she felt his touch that way, but she knew. Steps were heard on the stairs and her head turned to the left. He held her firmly, staying still just as she was, the tree shading them as the moon shone on it. The footsteps became muddled as they trudged over the grass, the smell of tobacco filling the air. She stayed. Her warmth pressed to him, the softness of her hair brushing the skin of his chest, his chin. Then a door closed in the distance, the trail of tobacco fading. The navigator pulled away, the arms releasing her. She turned and his stoic expression in the shadows revealed nothing. She backed away, her eyes flowing over him as if she was seeing him for the first time, taking in his complete image, the warmth of his embrace still haunting her skin. What did this mean? Why did he do that? Did he know?
The swordsman couldn't make her stay. She would have to come to him. He wouldn't make her. He stepped forward until he was clear from the shade of the tree now, completely bathed in the pale light. The swordsman and the navigator said nothing. But their expressions spoke for them. She saw the truth. The breath caught in her throat. He continued to look at her. Was it bad to let her know? To just let her know that he felt the same? He didn't ask for anything; he didn't ask her to do anything she couldn't. She had a choice.
The navigator felt a feeling other than pain. It didn't hurt. Loving him never hurt. But longing for him did. Fearing the loss of him did. Facing him now, she felt a connection, a link with him as if she was sharing her pain and so doing, it turned into something else. Just a quiet release. He knew and he felt the same. She wanted to tell him how she had hurt. How alone she had felt. How much she had needed him. How she still needed him. How she ached for him every second of every day. But how could she do that? Her hands clenched into determined fists as she tried to harden herself. She wasn't supposed to tell him anything. She should run!
She loved him.
She ached for him.
Her hands limply hung at her sides again.
Just a few feet away he stood, letting her know he was there, showing her, her feelings meant something. It brought her comfort, and yet, it made everything so much worse. How was she supposed to fight her need for him now? She couldn't dare let him hurt her. She wanted to shake her head, to show him he couldn't do that to her. That she wouldn't let him! How could he expect her to put herself at his mercy! How could he be so cruel!
But he wasn't doing that. It was her choice. She could still run. He wasn't stopping her.
Silently the navigator cursed that moon that displayed his feelings to her so clearly. That moon that wouldn't let the darkness of the night break his stare. She couldn't escape it, couldn't look away. It made her want to run to him. It was all she wanted. Just to go to him. Anger filled her, her inner battle raging. She couldn't let herself be hurt again. She shouldn't love. She wanted to yell at him, to blame him. He was strong; he could take it!
And he was ready to.
He waited. An unmoving form, his presence challenging her to do something, but not forcing her. He wouldn't turn away. Nothing was certain and all he knew was, he would rather make clear what he felt than keep it to himself any longer. Didn't matter if she walked away and left him behind. She would know and that had to count for something. It had to mean something to her fragile heart.
She turned away.
She was used to doing that. Her body moved across the grass, not strong, not determined, but defeated again. Weakened. Walking away was better. Wallowing in self pity was better than facing what she felt and feared. Better than taking the risk he offered her. The navigator reached the foot of the stairs that led to her sanctuary. But her hand touched the railing and she collapsed on to the step, not able to leave. She barely blinked as she sat, helpless. She squeezed her eyes shut, the tears building. Opening them again, her vision was distorted. The silence of the night making her gasps sound loud to her. Loud enough that all to hear. But only she could hear. The frustrated breaths, uncontrollable gasps. And yet, no tears rolled down her cheeks, stuck where they appeared because she had nothing to cry about. She was the one at fault. He offered her what she wanted most but she chose to turn away. It made her want to laugh at herself. Self pity was so easy to indulge in but it was so beneath her. She never let anything keep her back.
He saw her drop onto the stairs. He needed to stay. This could be that one moment that could change everything. Her resistance was fading, her mind confused and doubtful about its convictions. She knew she wasn't alone now. A new turmoil had been added. One that challenged, toppled her defences. Her inner desires could be answered. And she knew it.
But what about tomorrow. After she had laid her heart bare in front of him, would he still be there tomorrow? Would he always be there? He'd want to be. She knew that. Even if he couldn't guarantee it. Through the corner of her eye, she saw him move... closer.
He walked towards her, this would be the part where he met her half way. He had always thought he would. And her hesitation, her breakdown on the stairs was enough of a sign that she needed help to pull her from that self-imposed prison. He stopped in the middle of the lawn. No farther from her would he stand and no closer. His silence called to her as if she could hear him say her name. But then... quietly...
Her eyes widened, the silence broken. The always capable swordsman wasn't sure of himself, not at all. He had felt his breath catch just a little as he had finished saying her name. That was as far as he would go. Now he would wait again, remain where he was until she left him behind... or accepted the risk he posed.
She couldn't look at him. She tried to but her eyes only ended up on the grass. She didn't have to answer. She should run.
But why was it that the one who could hurt her the most was the one she felt the safest with? The one she trusted even as he threatened to break her heart.
Slowly, the navigator lifted her eyes to him as the moon so generously bathed him in its light, the path to him so clear. She wanted to speak, to tell him as well as the observer in the sky that she was afraid.
But she wouldn't. A long intake of breath preceded a confident release that followed.
She didn't need to cry on anyone's shoulder. She didn't need to speak her fears. She needed to make a decision. Running wasn't an option. Not anymore. He stood there, strong and steadfast, reminding her she was strong as well. She did not back away when challenged. Especially not in the face of his defiance.
The navigator rose to her feet. The swordsman's stern glance was on her as she moved. He didn't know what she would do but noticed the change in her stance as she faced him. She knew what she would do. She came to him and looked him in the eye with fiery intensity that could have or should have led to a bruised cheek, but instead, her eyes softened. And so did his expression. Alone, under the warmth of the moonlight, they looked at each other, silently accepting what was between them. He reached out and touched her hair, his hand brushing her shoulder. She didn't move. Then his hand settled on the back of her neck and he pulled her to him. She lay her cheek against his shoulder, her body quivering but certain in what it was doing as it rested against him.
Simultaneously, the swordsman and the navigator sought each other's lips under the beaming moon, bringing them together to seal the promise that had been made between them when their bodies had touched.
They would always be together.
They would always stand beside each other.
They would never part.
Not as long as they – the swordsman and the navigator – or that one celestial body up in the sky had anything to say about it.
A/N: Oh that moon. ;D
A big, BIG thanx to the reviewers of my previous one-shot. ^ ^